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What Makes The Miniature American Shepherd So Special?

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If you are looking for a small but active dog to add to your family, you may have heard someone suggest the Miniature American Shepherd.

They are one of the newest purebred dog breeds, having only been recognized recently by the American Kennel Club in 2015 as their 186th breed.

These diminutive herding dogs are just as energetic, intelligent, and charismatic as their larger cousins but in an adorable and distinctive small package. But don’t be fooled into thinking their smaller size might mean less work on your end!

American Shepherd

They need lots of exercise, mental stimulation, and love, and they won’t thrive living in small apartments with no yard space.

These dogs are best for active individuals or families, and they do best with older children, as they can be a little too energetic for toddlers.

Does this sound like your kind of dog? Read on as we take a closer look at the breed and go over everything you need to know. We’ll also share some of the key questions to ask yourself to help determine whether a MAS is the right pup to add to your family.

Miniature American Shepherd: Breed Overview

Miniature American Shepherds are defined as a small breed, as their name suggests. They are herding dogs and therefore have the sporting physique and intelligent temperament that accompanies most herd dogs.

These dogs need at least an hour of exercise per day and lots of mental stimulation. If they are abandoned with nothing to do for a few hours, you can expect a bit of destruction.

They are loyal and bond quickly with their families, but they can be a bit standoffish with strangers. They are easy to train, which is important to curbing their constant desire to herd smaller family members and other pets.

Key Characteristics

  • 14 to 18 inches tall
  • 20 to 60 pounds
  • 13 to 15 year lifespan
  • Intelligent
  • Trainable
  • High energy
  • Moderate shedding

As we briefly touched on earlier, the Miniature American Shepherd is a new breed, having only been recognized by the American Kennel Club in 2015.

The breed has still not been recognized by the UK, but UKMASC, the UK Miniature American Shepherd Club, has been active in the UK since 2011.

History Of The Breed

The Miniature American Shepherd is a truly American dog, as it was developed in California in the 1960s.

The dogs are believed to come from some small Australian Shepherds, which were selectively bred to maintain their small size. However, the dogs were unregistered, so their exact history remains unknown.

The breeders were ready to share their creation in the early 1980s when they registered their pups with the National Stock Dog Registry. At that time, they were known as Miniature Australian Shepherds as a nod to their parentage.

The name was changed to the Miniature American Shepherd, or MAS, when the breed’s popularity took off in the 1990s.

Australian Shepherd Bloodlines

It is generally believed that MAS dogs are closely related to Australian Shepherds, another breed created in California in the 19th century.

The herding breed was developed from mixing a variety of other herding breeds, including collies and sheepdogs imported from Australia, which is why the dogs came to be known as Australian Shepherds.

The Australian Shepherd is a medium-sized breed, generally measuring 18 to 23 inches tall and weighing between 35 and 70 pounds.

They are athletic dogs with moderately long double coats. They are very intelligent, energetic, loyal, and playful. While they are excellent herders, they have become popular companion dogs and family pets.


Miniature American Shepherds are on the small side for herding dogs. The males typically measure between 14 and 18 inches tall, and the females are around 13 to 17 inches tall.

They have an athletic body style that suggests strength without bulk. You can expect them to weigh somewhere between 20 and 60 pounds.

They have a medium-length double coat that can be straight or wavy, always with a bit of feathering on the back of the legs and a moderate mane and frill around the neck.

Their coat tends to shed quite a lot but only on a seasonal basis. Most have a long, curved tail, though some are born with a naturally bobbed tail as well.

It is recommended to never shave or clip the coats of these dogs, as it can damage the overall quality of their coat. At most, limit yourself to a hygienic trim around the stomach and backside.

Recognized colors for the MAS include black, blue merle, red merle, and red.

The term “merle” simply refers to a particular genetic patterning of the coat, though there are no specific definitions about what the marbling, blotching, or flecking merle coats should look like.

They often look like they have had a tin of paint splashed over them. Their distinctive coloring is almost always present around the eyes.

Their eyes themselves can be almost any color, and it is quite common for them to have two different colored eyes, often one blue and one brown.


Like most herding dogs, Miniature American Shepherds are highly intelligent, as is required for dogs bred to herd sheep.

They have a strong instinct for herding and guarding and often have the urge to herd small family members. They need to be trained from a young age to not try to herd people and cats.

The breed’s intelligence means they learn and adapt quickly, and they are also eager to please, which makes them ideal for training.

They respond best to positive reinforcement training, which uses reward to reinforce desired behavior. Yelling and punishment are likely to confuse them. They may even mistake it for a game.

They are energetic and persistent, so you can be sure that when you start a task or a game with this pup, you are the one who is going to get tired first! This means they also need lots of exercise and mental stimulation.

In fact, despite being smaller than larger sheepdogs, they tend to have more energy. These dogs need at least an hour of intense exercise every day. 

A short or a slow walk won’t be enough. You will probably need to take them to an off-leash dog park and commit to an extended game of fetch to help them burn off their energy in a positive way.

It helps to implement games that require agility and provide both physical and mental stimulation in daily exercise sessions.

Try teaching your dog these common hand signals to keep them stimulated.

MAS dogs are also innately loyal and will bond quickly with families. They also tend to be highly protective of their families, which often results in some alert barking.

Despite this, they are not aggressive, and with proper socialization, they are excellent with children and other animals. 

Even with plenty of socialization, they may always be a bit standoffish with strangers. This is not fear or shyness; they just prefer their familiar pack.

While these dogs are independent enough to spend quite a bit of time on their own, don’t expect to be able to abandon them in the house for hours on end.

Their high energy and high intellect mean they will get into trouble if left unattended for long periods of time.

Potential Health Risks

Miniature American Shepherds have an average lifespan of 13 to 15 years, which is about average for dogs of their size.

Like all purebred dogs, they have a tendency towards certain health conditions that have been made prevalent by inbreeding practices used to establish the breed.

With these dogs, eye conditions are relatively common, including progressing retinal atrophy, hereditary cataracts, iris coloboma, and microphthalmia. All of these conditions increase the chances of these dogs losing at least some of their vision later in life.

Hip dysplasia, which is a malformation of the joints during growth that later causes mobility issues, is also relatively common. This can be avoided with a good diet and appropriate exercise during the formative years of the dog’s life.

MAS dogs may also inherit the multidrug resistance gene, which can cause toxins to seep between different parts of the body.

This can make them more sensitive than other dogs to the side effects of medications. Avoid giving your dog medication whenever possible unless directed to do so by a veterinarian.

Should I Get A Miniature American Shepherd?

So, you’re thinking of adding a MAS to your family, but you’re still unsure whether they are the right dog for you. Ask yourself the following questions to help you decide.

What Is Your Living Situation? 

These dogs are high-energy, which means that despite their small size, they will not thrive in an apartment or if they are cooped up for long periods of time.

They will struggle not to destroy things and misbehave if they don’t have plenty of space to let off steam. They do best when they have a small outside area that they can circle and play in, especially when left alone.

Are You Home A Lot? 

MAS dogs are companionable and active. This means they get bored when they are left on their own, and when they get bored, they tend to make trouble.

While you can certainly leave these pups in the backyard for a few hours while you are running errands, leaving them at home for extended periods on a regular basis while you are at work can be a recipe for trouble.

Do You Have Small Children? 

While MAS dogs love children and are safe dogs to have around children, their energy levels and herding instincts can cause smaller children a bit of stress.

They do better with older children and active adults who can play with them and control them more easily.

Do You Have An Active Lifestyle? 

These small dogs need lots of exercise, and you will need to commit to taking them out for some intense exercise at least once a day. On top of that, they will enjoy accompanying you on hikes and other adventures.

They won’t be so happy to spend the weekend in front of the TV. Be sure your personality and lifestyle are compatible with such an energetic dog.

Are You A First-Time Owner? 

MAS dogs are highly intelligent and highly trainable, so even first-time owners should be able to take on the challenge of raising them. However, you need to be the kind of person who truly embraces that challenge. 

These dogs need lots of mental stimulation, and teaching them to do tricks and play games can be one of the best ways to provide that. Are you ready to put in the time to keep your dog growing and developing?

Where To Adopt A Miniature American Shepherd

MAS dogs are still a relatively new breed, which means they tend to be fairly expensive. If you are adopting one from a breeder, you should expect to pay around $1,000 for a healthy pup.

You can find listings of Miniature American Shepherd puppies for sale on the American Kennel Club website. The club has a process for vetting breeders, so you will be able to find plenty of reliable breeders on this site.

Despite being such desirable dogs, you will still often find MAS dogs in need of a home at adoption centers.

If looking to adopt from a shelter, start by contacting the Miniature American Shepherd Club of America. They have a list of specialist shelters divided by region.

Adopting? Read our guide on what to expect when you bring home your pup.

FAQs On Miniature American Shepherds

What is the difference between a Mini Australian Shepherd and a Mini American Shepherd?

Interestingly, there is no notable difference between these two breeds. 

The breed was originally known as “Australian” when it was developed in the 1990s, as it was bred from Australian Shepherd dogs in California.

When the breed became popular in the 1990s, the “Australian” part of their name was changed to “American.” This is the name that is recognized by the American Kennel Club and therefore is the official name of the breed.

How much does a Miniature American Shepherd dog cost?

Many different factors influence the cost of purebred MAS pups, like the particular breeder you purchase them from, the dogs’ genetics, and more. 

Supply and demand in different areas also means the cost can vary significantly by location. If you are buying from a reputable breeder in the United States, you should expect to pay around $1,000 per dog.

MAS pups are more expensive than many other breeds because their newness makes them quite rare. If a breeder is asking for significantly less than this, it should be a red flag.

Do Miniature American Shepherds bark a lot?

A healthy and happy MAS dog will bark as an alarm or perhaps as part of a game, but they don’t tend to bark incessantly for no reason.

If they do display this type of behavior, it is often a sign that something is wrong and they are anxious, ill, or stressed. Repeated, excessive barking should be a signal to contact your vet.

Do Miniature American Shepherds like to swim?

MAS dogs are incredibly adventurous and athletic, so they have no problem wading out into the water for a romp.

They will probably enjoy the water a lot if they are introduced to it at a young age. However, they don’t have the same natural affinity for water as dogs such as Labradors, golden retrievers, or poodles.

Are Miniature American Shepherds good with kids?

MAS dogs love kids and will be playful and protective of them. They aren’t aggressive towards children, but you might find they are a bit hyperactive, especially during play.

They have no “off switch” for their energy, so small children can find them overwhelming. 

They may also try to herd smaller children. Usually, this behavior is mostly harmless, but in some cases, it can include an innocent nip or alert barking here and there. This can be scary for toddlers and particularly shy kids.

MAS dogs do better with slightly older children who are big enough not to be herded and old enough to take control of the dog and get them to calm down when they become overly excited.

The Verdict

Miniature American Shepherd is one of the newest purebred dog breeds, and it is quickly becoming a popular companion and family pet all around the world.

Highly energetic and intelligent, they do best with active families where they get lots of companionship and exercise.

These bundles of joy are loyal, pliable, and easy to train, but they can also be quite hard work to care for. They need at least one hour of intensive exercise each day, and they strongly prefer having a fenced-in outdoor space at home.

MAS dogs need lots of companionship and shouldn’t be left at home alone for long periods, as they tend to become destructive when they get bored.

However, while that might all sound like hard work, it is definitely worth it to have one of these adorable, loveable, and intelligent dogs at home.

Do you have experience raising a Miniature American Shepherd?

Share your thoughts with the community in the comments section below.

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What Makes The Miniature American Shepherd So Special? - Black and Tan Shepherd weaving through red and white poles

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